Sunday 14 July

I read chapter 17 of Owen Chadwick book The Early Reformation on the Continent because I wanted to find out more about John Calvin’s role in the burning of Michael Servetus. Interesting stuff. In a way Servetus became a martyr for a movement toward toleration (don’t burn your neighbors for holding a different religious opinion) even though it would take a long time. Of course, in many Muslim majority countries there is still no “toleration” and in countries like Pakistan perceived blasphemy is still punishable by death.

In passing I also learned about the 1946 Kielce pogrom.

During the Middle Ages ritual murder, the killing of babies or children for magical purposes [by Jews], was a widely believed legend....During the later fifteenth century the lawyers of the Renaissance started to save Jews from legendary evidence and pooh-poohed the accusations. Johann Eck tried to keep them going. They continued to be believed in remoter parts and for a long time. In 1946 the legend unleashed a massacre at Kielce of Jews who had escaped the Holocaust.

The Kielce pogrom destroyed the hope of most Polish Jews that survived the Holocaust that they would be save from persecution in Polen. And indeed, Jewish emigration from Poland increased dramatically. With the blessing of the Polish government, which signed a decree allowing Jews to leave officially without visas or exit permits.

LA Megacity versus the Netherlands

Thursday 11 July

The Netherlands (NL) and Los Angeles Megacity have both about 18 million people. Density is hard to compare. LA Megacity and combined statistical area is too low because of mountains and deserts where nobody lives. Greater Los Angeles might be high because it might be only urban. Still, I’m guessing LA population density might be higher than both the Netherlands as a whole and only urban Randstad. As for GDP, LA beats NL with 25% higher GDP. That’s not an insubstantial difference is it?

It gets a bit more embarrassing for NL when one makes a comparison between simply Greater LA (population 12,872,322) and the Randstad of the Netherlands. To account for the difference in population I’ll take the GDP per capita, 82,941 versus 63,053. Greater LA beats the Randstad with 31% more GDP per capita.

I might be missing something here, I’m not a numbers person. I noticed that NL and LA Megacity were comparable population wise, so I got curious. Maybe they’re incomparable for some reason?

LA Megacity and combined statistical area

  1. 87,940 km2 (33,954 sq mi)
  2. Population, 18,422,600
  3. Density 208.9/km2 (541.1/sq mi)
  4. GDP $1.528 trillion

Greater Los Angeles

  1. 12,562 km2 (4,850.3 sq mi)
  2. Population, 12,872,322
  3. Density 1,025/km2 (2,654/sq mi)
  4. GDP $1.227 trillion


  1. 41,865km2 (16,164 sq mi)
  2. Population 18,127,400 (68th)
  3. Density 520/km2 (1,346.8/sq mi) (33rd)
  4. GDP $1.329 trillion


  1. 11,372.15 km2 (4,390.81 sq mi)
  2. Population 8,403,915
  3. Density 738.99/km2 (1,914.0/sq mi)
  4. GDP €510.181 billion

Update: I tried to find additional data than GDP, comparative date on things like health, happiness, stuff like that. But those things are hard to measure. Also, mostly country level, not state level. It’s always been my subjective personal impression that the US is a great place to live if you have plenty of money, and a rather depressing place to live if you are relatively poor.

In onze tijd, Tim Fransen

Saturday 6 July

A few days after I wrote Taking stock, I bought In onze tijd (In our time) by Tim Fransen, a book which happens to capture a lot of what I was trying to convey. Except, Tim Fransen goes to the roots of these developments and tries to come up with a way forward.

First a few fragmentary items.

Apparently Immanuel Kant thought that it was wrong to maintain standing armies, because that would trigger an arms race as a result of the constant threat that such armies pose. We are going in the wrong direction, clearly. I know Iceland has no army, but it is a member or NATO.

I saw a reference to gun violence in the US. Each year, more children in the United States die from gun violence than from any other cause, even traffic accidents (which are also numerous in the US).

A proposal to encourage companies to create more socially valuable activities. Based on a ‘social assessment’, these companies would receive a reward or a fine. (This seems rather radical to me, but there is also the suggestion to initially only provide a ranking; perhaps we can reward companies with positive or negative PR? No, that would probably be too weak an incentive.)

Turns out the Dutch are even more individualistic and ‘freedom’ loving than people in the US. (Read: not willing to pay taxes, not willing to adapt one’s behavior for the larger community, etc.)

While I was reading I noted something ironic: the politically extreme right people who value ‘freedom’ above anything else vote for autocratic leaders who will actually work to restrict freedom (and rights and democracy so that they can remain in power).

Not wanting to pay taxes exposes you as someone who doesn’t care about society and also as a ‘free rider’ with regard to infrastructure.

As for solutions, subsidiariteit, supranationaliteit, stapsgewijsheid, solidariteit. Not sure how to translate that. I’ll try chatGPT:


  • Translation: Subsidiarity
  • Explanation: The principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized competent authority. It is a key principle in federalism and in the governance of the European Union.


  • Translation: Supranationality
  • Explanation: The concept of a multinational political union where negotiated power is delegated to an authority by governments of member states. The European Union is an example of a supranational entity.


  • Translation: Gradualism
  • Explanation: The policy of implementing changes or reforms slowly or incrementally rather than rapidly. It emphasizes taking small steps to achieve a significant outcome over time.


  • Translation: Solidarity
  • Explanation: Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group. It is a fundamental principle in social policies and labor movements.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Below I’ll quote from a few reviews:

Adriaan Jansen on Goodreads wrote:

Tim Fransen is not the first to claim that we have gone too far in our individualism and self-interest. What is original to me is: Fransen describes how our excessive individualism is mainly caused by a wrong idea about how we can promote progress. In "In our time," he describes how this misguided idea of progress and our extreme individualism pose a threat to our democracy and society.

Fransen describes this misguided idea of progress as an ideology, as a recipe for how we can organize society to maximize the chances of progress. Fransen objects to this Western progress ideology, which states that when setting up fundamental institutions (science, liberal democracy, free market), we cannot assume the moral goodness of people. In fact, the idea behind the Western progress ideology is that humans are selfish and mostly act out of self-interest. Therefore, institutions must be designed to ensure that acting out of self-interest benefits the greater whole. A good example is the free market: buyers and sellers act out of self-interest, and the invisible hand of Adam Smith ensures that the greater whole benefits from it.

So according to the progress ideology, our self-interest should not be rejected or tempered, but rather guided into the right paths through the proper institutions. This method is applied to almost all societal problems: "Time and again, the answer lies not in moral effort, but rather in establishing institutions that make such moral effort unnecessary" (p. 30).

According to Fransen, one problem with this progress ideology is that we not only guide self-interest into the right paths but also encourage and cultivate it, leading to excessive individualism. This comes at the expense of solidarity and community spirit, thus undermining our democracies.

Fransen also notes that much societal progress has not been caused by institutions guiding our self-interest. The abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights in the 1960s in the US all came about through civil movements that had to fight long for justice (and were not concerned with exercising self-interest).

In short, the loose approach of the progress ideology, which states that progress for the greater whole more or less automatically occurs when we pursue our self-interest, is what Tim Fransen objects to. He advocates for a different approach, recognizing that democracy is always a fragile "work in progress" and that true progress cannot be separated from justice: "Progress is not something you can let take its course. Progress requires our wisdom, careful considerations, and moral choices" (p. 97) and "a democracy requires effort from its citizens...the realization that democracy is a vulnerable system" (p. 187-188).

This book not only provides an analysis of the pitfalls of the progress belief based on self-interest but also offers suggestions on how to make our society more resilient again. Two pillars to support the transition to a more resilient society: less focus on individual freedom and more attention to collective freedom (where we ourselves choose under which laws we want to live, laws that sometimes limit our individual freedom) and a more conscious citizenship (where we no longer relate to each other as mere consumers, but mainly as engaged citizens). Building on these two pillars, Fransen presents a series of recommendations in the last part of the book, where he himself is most charmed by Economic Democracy, a kind of stakeholder capitalism.

Fransen pays much attention to both modern and ancient thinkers who have shaped our ideas about how to shape society. Thus, the book is also sometimes a polemic, where especially modern progress believers like Steven Pinker and Maarten Boudry have to endure criticism.

After reading the book Hjalmar Haagsman (also on Goodreads) had this amusing thought about the freedom we value so much:

I was reminded of the beautiful scene in Fargo season 5, where a shrewd businesswoman says to a Cowboy Sheriff, 'So you want freedom without responsibility? Kid, there is only one kind of person on earth who gets that.' 'The president,' says the Cowboy, beaming. 'No. A baby. You want to be a baby,' says the businesswoman.

Finally, Marc on Goodreads wrote, among other things, this:

In his book, Tim assumes that his analysis of our time is so clear that it inevitably leads to his proposed solutions. He is right, but he probably won't get this recognition, because the 'non-parishioners' don't even want to analyze the problem: the problem of our time is migration, period.

People want to 'enjoy' their comfort and safety for as long as possible and will defend it. They are formidable opponents when supported and unleashed by the powerful 'heretics'. I think Tim (heavily) underestimates these forces: Nelson Mandela spent 25 years on Robben Island, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus were murdered, as was Navalny.

Lack of motivation toward achievement and success

Saturday 6 July

The country comparison tool on the website below is convenient to compare 4 countries on the six cultural values dimensions of Hofstede. But where’s the dimension Masculinity vs. Femininity? Apparently it is renamed or subsumed by “Motivation towards Achievement and Success”. So, typical Dutch and Scandinavian values that prioritize happiness, caring for your family more than material wealth, etc. is now framed as “lack of motivation toward achievement and success”. I detect a bias there that can be predicted by this very dimension, seemingly. What is going on here? If you know, let me know as well!

Taking stock

Sunday 30 June

Frist draft.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was optimistic that we, as humanity, would begin a new era in which brute force would no longer be a threat to world peace. People all over the world would realize that it was better to trade than to wage war. Issues, such as the too rapid economic reform of Russia, could be resolved peacefully. But, of course, cracks in that optimism appeared rather quickly.

I do not remember all the events that were incompatible with this optimism. Randomly, I can try to recall a few from memory.

For example, I remember the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin after the Oslo Accords, and the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit. In my view, what was decisive for the failure of Camp David was that Yasser Arafat could not accept that he could never win and had to be content with less territory in the West Bank. Instead, he supported the Second Intifada, as a result of which conservative forces in Israel came to power who wanted to occupy even more of the West Bank. Peace in Israel thus seemed impossible. Still, Israel could have been be a special case.

Another limitation of my optimism was the evident ability of despots to seize power in a country and frustrate democratic developments. The principle of sovereignty and, more generally, the powerlessness of the United Nations gave despots the space to do as they pleased.

The major shock, however, came in the aftermath of 9/11. The attack itself was simply large-scale terrorism, but the conservative government in the U.S. seized upon 9/11 to attack and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. The attack on Iraq was particularly troubling, as it seemed to be a classic case of abuse of power, complete with classic lies about the reasons for the war. I still vividly remember the speech Colin Powell gave at the UN, in which he told lies and waved a fake vial of anthrax.

It has since become clear that democracy is under siege everywhere in the world. The most populous country in the world, China, is not democratic to begin with, and it uses classic nationalist sentiments to maintain unity, with the potential for war with countries portrayed as enemies.

Many countries follow the same pattern, sometimes with support from China or Russia, which in the meantime had also destroyed its nascent democracy. Civil wars around the world (especially in Africa) seem unstoppable. Russia attacked several of its neighboring countries and occupied border areas where Russian speakers lived. Finally, Russia occupied and annexed Crimea and started a further (covert) war with Ukraine by occupying the eastern part of that country. This culminated in 2022 in an attempt to occupy the entire country.

That war, in the middle of Europe, continues and seems insoluble. Russia is supported by China and all the countries that believe the West has enriched itself too much at the expense of the rest of the world, or that simply have no problem with the idea that one country can be attacked and occupied by another more powerful country.

Where is my optimism? Pretty much gone. Here in Europe, we can try to arm ourselves against Russia and thereby maintain peace within our own borders. However, we are frustrated in this effort by domestic anti-democratic forces (often supported by Russia). It doesn’t help that democracy in the U.S. seems to be going down the drain as well.

The pernicious thing about anti-democratic movements is that they have no principled respect for people. Anti-democrats grant fewer or no rights at all to certain groups or categories of people. Once anti-democrats come to power, everyone is at risk, even those who were foolish enough to vote for them. And that is the situation now. An unsafe situation even here in Europe, and certainly no hope for a peaceful future for humanity as a whole.

Jack’s meat market

Saturday 29 June

I saw a photo on that caught my interest. The photo was labeled “NOLA”, and one of the comments said: “Another Nola building that looks to be barely still standing.” It turned out that NOLA is an abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana.

Through the inscription on the building (Jack’s meat market 504 947-3073), I was able to find the location on Google Maps/Street View. But when I explored the neighborhood, something strange happened. The building disappeared.

Apparently, the building disappeared sometime before February 2023. Maybe the building had become too ramshackle, or it no longer fit into the zoning plan. But it seems that a neighborhood store disappeared with it.

I posted a comment under the photo: “As of February 2023, Jack’s meat market was gone, only a slab of concrete remaining.” But after I did, the page was closed for further comments. Was it because of my comment? But the owner of the page has the right to delete comments, so if the comment was objectionable, why didn't they just delete it?

Upon rereading, I found my comment needlessly depressing among all the laudatory comments, so I deleted it. After that, comments were allowed again. Strange. Bizarre automation of Flickr? I just left the comment out.


Thursday 11 April

The number of the 寒山 (Cold Mountain) poem that starts with 獨坐常忽忽 might be 150 or 147 or around that.

In Dutch I can attempt something to approach the effect of the reduplicated forms that all the lines end:


Alleen gezeten altijd piekerend,
emoties mijn stemming verpestend.
Wolken de bergflanken verhullend,
wind door de vallei zuchtend.
Bomen door de apen schuddend,
vogels in het bos fluitend.
Haren door de tijd vergrijzend,
einde jaar m’n leeftijd betreurend.

Trefwoorden: boekbespreking, Michel Leezenberg, Japan, filosofie, taal, accenttekens, macrons

Friday 22 March

Michel Leezenberg heeft een kritische boekbespreking in het NRC, van Michel Dijkstra Japanse filosofie. De denkweg van verfijning en verbinding. Het artikel is nu toegankelijk, maar zal later wel achter de betaalmuur geplaatst worden. De bespreking is redelijk interessant. Opvallend vond ik ook iets wat triviaal zou moeten zijn, maar dat kennelijk niet is: Leezenberg plaatst accenttekens op de lange klinkers van Japanse woorden en namen (en ook een Grieks woord). Dat heb ik, naar ik me kan herinneren, nog niet eerder in een NRC artikel gezien.

Wel koos hij voor een dakje (de circumflex) in plaats van een streepje (de macron) boven de klinker, waarschijnlijk omdat iemand bij God niet wist hoe een macron te kiezen, maar hoewel het er anachronistisch uitziet doet dat niets af aan het nut.

Vaag staat me bij dat ik wel eens Grieks in het NRC heb gezien (Leezenberg had χώρα kunnen toevoegen), maar gegeven dat de juiste accenttekens meestal al achterwege blijven verwacht ik niet dat het ooit zal gebeuren dat NRC iets zal printen als: Dōgen (道元). ;-)


Monday 11 March


My attempt at a translation of the 寒山 poem that starts with the line 蹭蹬諸貧士 (in many collections nr. 99).

Unlucky poor perpetual students,
far beyond hunger and cold
unemployed dilettantes in poetry,
with all your might, you rack your brains
yet no one appreciates your bungling,
so my advice is: stop sighing
even if you wrote your verses on pastry,
not even the dogs would want them.

The poem deals most likely with students that failed to pass the civil service exams or to gain an appointment. Poetry was a major part of testing. Paul Rouzer writes:

Our starving poets are clinging to the cultural capital of their education by writing poems, in the hope either of attracting patronage, or simply of achieving some fame among their peers. But because they have no particular social status, no one is interested in what they have to write. The satirist offers them a sarcastic consolation: disabuse yourself of any hope of winning an audience, for even dogs won’t eat your unsolicited poems; they’re too indigestible. In light of the self-consciousness of the collection as a body of “useful” poems, as we saw in chapter 2, this verse has a double edge. It can be seen as the poet’s response to the critic in HS 187: it is in fact secular regulated verse that proves to be profoundly useless, while Hanshan’s poems, though misunderstood and scorned, provide true wisdom and advantage to the “elite,” understanding readership.[14]

In the Tang era, it was still fairly common to treat examination candidates with sympathy; the unhappiness and trauma caused by failure was a powerful theme in Tang literature. Consequently, the degree of contempt expressed in these poems is somewhat surprising, and suggests a poet who saw himself as outside literati circles. He is not necessarily dismissive of education, as HS 129 might suggest to some; rather, he detests the connection Tang literati made between education and worldly ambition.

[ note 14: Hanshan also makes this point in HS 288, when a scholar accuses him of being unable to write in the fashionable “regulated verse” form. The poet replies: “I laugh when you try to write poetry / Like a blind man praising the sun” (288, lines 7–8). Again, his laughter targets a lack of understanding on the part of the benighted. ]

[On Cold Mountain: A Buddhist Reading of the Hanshan Poems, Paul Rouzer, 2016]

Illustration by arimoshinai.

CC-BY-ND-4.0 chatGPT 4.0 & arimoshinai

Whispered vowel in Japanese

Wednesday 28 February

How can a vowel be whispered, considering that vowels are voiced? Apparently by shaping your mouth in the correct way, and subsequently only breathing out. Amazingly that allows one to identify the intended vowel. I just tried this myself (so, no reference).

I tried this because I noticed that looking at the waveform of kikaina-o[dorokubeki-shokubutsu] the “whispered” vowel i in the first syllable of kikaina consisted mostly of silence. There is k, very short the rushing of air shaped like i and then silence. Also, k is very low in volume (I wanted to remove a bit of noise but it turned out the be part of the word).

I was most surprised by the silence in the word kikaina. Is there a stop after ki or becomes the whisper simply inaudible?

GT’s voice

Let’s check real voices:

kikaina hanashi desu naa (I used background noise reduction on this one)

Ma, kikaina tokoro de ne. (Amazingly, ki looks like a separate word.)

Daniel Miessler, General Absurdism, and How It Applies in Everyday Life

Tuesday 27 February

I read an article by Daniel Miessler: General Absurdism, and How It Applies in Everyday Life.


Humans weren’t designed to understand our underlying reality. We were designed to compete and succeed in the context of survival and reproduction.

Our hardware and software aren’t meant to interact with reality directly. They’re meant to interact with other players in this game of Survive and Reproduce.

What if you don’t want to play the game?

... we’ve evolved far enough to see the other world. The real world. And we’ve started to notice the discrepancies between the two.

Is time with a dear friend any less sweet? Is Ice Cream any less wonderous? Are coffee and sex and laughter in some way diminished?

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. — Bertrand Russell

I like the Russell quote. I suppose some of us have different roles in the game (this is certainly true depending on one’s stage in life, but I mean it broader than that). I also have to conclude that some of us are on the side line, watching the game.


Friday 16 February

Opstaan, scheren douchen aankleden.
Ik schakel vliegtuigmodus uit,
wapen mezelf voor de rampspoed.

M'n kleine wereldje
kabbelt voort op de rand
van de afgrond.

Hugo Mercier

Friday 12 January

I’m reading Not Born Yesterday The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe, Hugo Mercier, 2019: notes.

Scott Ritter update

Wednesday 4 October

I remember Scott Ritter from exposing the lie that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (or still some chemicals).

I read up on his bio and can’t decide what to make of it (only a proficient conspiracy theorist might be able to make sense of it, but of course, that would lead to an unproven just so story that more likely than not would be wrong).

Long story short, Ritter is now touring Russia to sell his books. Still curious, I looked at his Twitter feed.

The first tweet was an almost totally unremarkable video summary of the elections in Slovakia, except that he seemed to be gloating at the prospect of “deep fractures in the actual unity of Europe”.[1]

The second tweet was a repost of someone who suggests that, because Ukrainian SS'ers used an emblem largely based on the Ruthenian lion that Ukraine used since the Middle ages and still uses, Ukrainians are using unashamedly a Nazi flag.

Why would he repost that?

Subsequently a longer video, where he answers questions of people calling in or commenting.

In answer to a caller who wanted to know why people are so stupid (she probably meant: why people keep making the same mistakes) he said: “we need more people that are willing to listen and discern than people who are willing to speak and act”.

He argues that Armenia turning away from Russia toward the West (which is news to me, but possible I suppose) is 100% political suicide. Because, “hee Armenia, look at Ukraine, NATO helped Ukraine, that’s your future. If you don’t stick with Russia”. I myself don’t have an opinion on that. Not only do I lack facts, one fact does seem pretty clear: both Russia, the EU, and the US look pretty impotent in relation to Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s ambitions.

A Dutch(!) viewer asks:

I can’t stop wondering what I would do if I were to be conscripted to fight the Russians. I’m leaning toward saving myself and surrendering to the Russians. I want to survive and take care of my family after the war. What is your opinion?[2]


I know the Russians don’t want to hear this but... [laughs seemingly nervously] ... if I was Ukrainian I’d have to serve, because it is my country.

Another viewer:

Do you think that Zelensky, an actor, was specifically chosen to be president of Ukraine during the provoked Russian invasion because the West knew that Ukraine was going to get slaughtered on the battlefield and need to put forward "convincing" propaganda to maintain support for any length of time? How long in advance was his rise planned?


... agent Zelensky... documentary ... I don’t believe it was because the West knew Ukraine was going to get slaughtered on the battlefield, I think it was because the West wanted a war and Zelensky was the guy to get it. He did so by running an campaign... look, his entire servant of the people TV series was a five year - I believe it was five seasons - psychological operation orchestrated by British intelligence and ... an oligarch... his whole goal was to go to war .... I think the West thought that economic sanctions would bring Russia to its knees... there is no doubt in my mind that the Zelensky plan has been years in the making.

So, that is weird. According to Ritter the West wanted war and thought that the war would end soon via economic sanctions (is there any historical precedent where economic sanctions actually worked? Certainly the sanctions of 2014 were a total failure).

Both those assertions are really weird. I suppose he wants me to watch his documentary to understand why he believes that...

He refers to his article “SCOTT RITTER: No 'End of History' in Ukraine”. It’s funny how everybody reads Fukuyama differently. Apart form the stab at Fukuyama the article tries to be an overview of the history of Ukraine that starts a bit before the Soviet-Union. If I want to know more about that I will read books by real historians.

He says he predicted the collapse of the Ukrainian army and says that it is happening.

He says England has nothing left to give? Where does that come from? (The video was posted 17 hours ago.)

He says Russia wants to plan to 2025 because the Russians still want to destroy the Nazis in Ukraine and to do that they need to occupy more of Ukraine.

He is not a Trump supporter? But he speaks about denazification as if it really needs to happen. (Also weird: every Ukrainian who would resist Russian occupation is a banderite? From Stepan Bandera. I had to look “banderite” up to see what the current status of the term is:

The term has been used by Russian state media against Euromaidan activists to associate a separate Ukrainian national identity with the most radical nationalists.[23][24][22] Today, in Russian propaganda, the word is used to refer to all in Ukraine who back the idea of sovereignty from Russia; Ukrainian nationalist collaboration with Nazi Germany is also emphasized.[19]

Skimming a few other tweets... 2 1/2 hours of my life wasted to find out where Scott Ritter stands. Probably not a good use of my time, though it was interesting to hear how convinced the callers where that their own favorite conspiracy theory was correct.

Ritter didn’t engage with all of it, denied a few points. But seems pretty far out himself nevertheless. He made a few predictions: Ukraine’s army will collapse, Russia will occupy more of Ukraine unless it will surrender.

Certainly not everything Ritter says is wrong. It’s probably two things that make him the wrong person to follow: (1) he is totally overconfident in his interpretation of the facts, while not showing much historical expertise (2) judging by his tweets, he sees evil people everywhere, and evil has to be combated (or at least harshly quote-tweeted or commented on) no matter what (in other words: no nuance to be found).

I remember Ritter as the man who stood up to the liars who started the Iraq war. I don’t know what to think of what he did between then and now. But now he’s not helping.


  1. Full quote: “What an interesting time it is. At a time when NATO, the US and the EU speak of unprecedented unity, we’re starting to see deep fractures in the actual unity of Europe.”
  2. This is somewhat embarrassing to me since I’m Dutch as well and while I’m not a big patriot, I certainly think my country is worth defending. If you think otherwise, why not leave?

Blog for current readings

Monday 2 October

I’ve started a blog with notes specifically on my current reading about the tendency of humans to hate the other, go to war and kill the other. It’s on my homepage:


Monday 2 October

We zijn onschuldige toeschouwers
maar de acteurs spugen in het publiek.

Wie wil kan het podium beklimmen
om daar weer vanaf te worden geschopt.

Heaven and Hell: Possible in theory?

Monday 25 September

Contemplating fiction and virtual reality, this occurred to me: Heaven doesn’t have to be eternal. One day is sufficient. After the first blissful day passes, the individual in question only needs to be deleted during sleep (after a pleasant dream, perhaps?).

Another point I previously considered is that Heaven actually can’t be be eternal. People would need to be altered in such a way that they won’t go mad from boredom (for instance, by regularly modifying their memories) and would also need to be modified so that they can never do harm (because otherwise, Heaven wouldn’t be heavenly anymore). What remains then is no longer human. What is something with a fake memories and no free will? A robot?

But isn’t our memory already completely unreliable? And do we not already lack free will? The only difference is that we can do harm...

A few words on Nagorno-Karabakh

Monday 25 September

I´m reading The Psychology of Nationalism, by Joshua Searle-White, 2001. Not a great book, but still useful. As it happens, one of Searle-White’s two case studies, is Nagorno-Karabakh (the other is Sri Lanka).

I thought the following passage was illuminating:

... “Black January” is a national tragedy for the Azerbaijani people. On January 20, 1990, Soviet troops entered Baku, ostensibly to protect the Armenian population there. (Most of Baku’s substantial Armenian population had fled or been evacuated from Baku several days earlier after anti-Armenian rioting.) Instead of protecting anyone, the Soviet troops killed at least 130 Azerbaijanis and wounded many more.20 This event is now memorialized in “Martyr’s Lane,” an area on a hill on the south side of Baku. A long lane is flanked on each side by gravestones bearing the names, birthdates, and pictures of each of the Azerbaijanis killed on that day. The Azerbaijan government has subsequently added graves on each side of the lane for those who were killed in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. At the end of the lane, on the site of a former Soviet monument, an eternal flame burns. Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, features a similar monument. It stands atop a hill with a commanding view of the city and is accompanied by a museum honoring the genocide of 1915. It too features an eternal flame, surrounded by obelisks that represent the various regions in which Armenians have traditionally lived. It is accompanied by a museum dedicated to honoring the victims of the massacres.

SW quotes at one point Ernest Becker:

Men try to qualify for eternalization by being clean and by cleansing the world around them of the evil, the dirty. . . . The highest heroism is the stamping out of those who are tainted.

We’ve all seen the videos of Azerbaijanis who destroyed every Armenians cross and tombstone they could find, in a great effort to try and erase every remaining sign that could remind them that Armenians lived there at one time. Perhaps this is also a not entirely conscious attempt to resolve the conflicting narratives that Armenians and Azerbaijani hold about the region by simply destroying the evidence.

I sometimes think something like: while there are many flawed individuals, at least collectively humanity makes some kind of progress. However, we’re also quite capable of acting like insane people collectively.

Cooperation and commitment to make things better

Friday 4 August

Cooperation and commitment to make things better for all of us, is that too much to ask? Unfortunately, yes. Too many of us want to hate, destroy, and take pleasure in the misery of others. Moreover, a significant number of individuals simply don't care about the consequences as long as they can satisfy their own desires.

For a while we were distracted. By optimism. We thought we could do better than our predecessors. However, that optimism was misguided. For a while things seemed to go in the right direction, but not because we were better. We just were lucky.

This pattern has occurred before when a combination of circumstances led to periods of peace and prosperity. Yet, circumstances change beyond our control, and now we realize the extent of our lack of control. Our societies are too complex, and there are too many bad or broken actors within them.

There will be no savior to rescue us from ourselves. The responsibility lies with us; we must save ourselves from our destructive tendencies. Can we stop hating? Can we stop wishing harm upon others? Can we care for people beyond our immediate circles? Can we understand that that wishing harm upon others is simply bad, because we are the other?


Thursday 20 July

I needed an clutter free online resource for stroke order of kanji/ hanji/ 漢字 that included less frequent characters. I couldn't find one so I made one:


I know that there are lots of other online resources for showing the stroke order of sinograms. Some of them are more useful than others. Most (probaly all) of them are incomplete with regard differences in stroke order according to region and writing style. Additionally, they explain often a rather limited number of sinograms.

KanjiStrokeOrders has the first two limitations as well (and might be less well maintained) but it does explain many more graphs (I counted 6612). I also happen to like the minimalist black and white single image with numbers style. If you know of a better resource, please let me know.

Meaning is felt

Friday 23 June

Meaning is felt when your friends or family value you even when things don’t go well or when they don’t agree with your beliefs or the choices you’ve made. Within limits of course. If you mass murder your class mates you’re on your own. Meaning is also felt when you are able to use your strengths to serve others. Or when you are able to lose your sense of self, in reflection, in nature, in work, in art, etc.

— Note made after reading an interview with Emily Esfahani Smith

Does chatGPT explain David Deutsch’s correctly?

Sunday 18 June

Explain the inductive method.


The inductive method is a logical reasoning process that involves deriving general principles or conclusions based on specific observations or evidence. It is a fundamental approach used in scientific inquiry and empirical research. The key idea behind the inductive method is that by observing and analyzing a specific set of examples or data, one can formulate a general principle or hypothesis that applies to a broader context.

The process of induction typically involves the following steps:

  • Observation: Gathering specific data or evidence through direct observations or experiments.
  • Pattern recognition: Identifying recurring patterns, similarities, or relationships among the observed data.
  • Formulating a hypothesis: Developing a preliminary generalization or hypothesis that explains the observed patterns or relationships.
  • Testing the hypothesis: Conducting further observations or experiments to gather additional data and evaluate the validity of the hypothesis.
  • Drawing conclusions: Analyzing the accumulated evidence and drawing a general conclusion or principle that is consistent with the observed data.
  • Verification: Subjecting the conclusion or principle to further testing, replication, or scrutiny to ensure its reliability and general applicability.

It's important to note that the inductive method does not guarantee absolute certainty or truth but rather aims to establish plausible explanations or generalizations based on available evidence. The strength of the inductive reasoning depends on the quality and representativeness of the observed data, the logical coherence of the hypothesis, and the degree of confirmation through repeated observations or experiments.

What would David Deutsch say about inductive reasoning?


David Deutsch, a theoretical physicist and philosopher, is known for his contributions to the field of quantum computation and his views on the philosophy of science. Deutsch has been critical of traditional inductive reasoning and has proposed an alternative approach called "fabric of reality."

According to Deutsch, traditional inductive reasoning, which involves drawing general conclusions from specific observations, is limited in its ability to provide true knowledge and explanations about the world. Deutsch argues that inductive reasoning is fundamentally flawed because it relies on the assumption that past observations can reliably predict future events. He believes that this approach is insufficient for understanding and explaining the complexities of the universe.

Instead, Deutsch proposes a more powerful and comprehensive approach that he calls "fabric of reality." This approach emphasizes the importance of explanatory knowledge and the creation of explanations or theories that have explanatory power and can make accurate predictions. Deutsch argues that the key to scientific progress is the creation and testing of theories that can explain and predict a wide range of phenomena.

Deutsch's view can be summarized as rejecting the idea that general principles can be derived solely from specific observations. Instead, he emphasizes the need for explanatory theories that can account for the observed data and make accurate predictions. His approach challenges the traditional reliance on induction and promotes a more nuanced understanding of scientific knowledge and explanation.

Does chatGPT explain David Deutsch’s correctly?

EU space program

Friday 16 June

The US got into trouble with their space program because the space shuttle proved unreliable and had to be stopped.

The EU gets into trouble with their space program because they stopped a rocket that was extremely reliable.



Wednesday 7 June

I wonder whether the characters for 瑪瑙 were chosen not only for their sound but also for their strokes, resembling somewhat the weird lines in agate... especially 瑙... I’m also tempted to read a word “horse brain”...

Images of agate

漢字 character sinogram Chinese

Aspects of polarization and debate

Wednesday 31 May

I really enjoyed reading a (very) short article by Sabrina Keinemans and Maja Ročak about how to talk to people who are unable to reason properly (my wording, not theirs) and thereby lessen the polarization. I’m not sure how effective their approach is. Perhaps it’ll prevent people that feel ignored to take a violent path. Or perhaps it’ll make an elite person realize that there are more sides to a problem than they were able to gather from other data. (The article is behind a paywal.)

An attempt to rephrase key points:

  • rich people (by which I mean people that can afford to buy solar panels for example) may be inclined to pursue ideals in an abstract sense. On the other hand, less well off people may have not only less options but may also be affected in their well-being by certain policies that the rich folk may be able to push through (instead of a debate between people with different opinions a debate between people that live in different realities).
  • ideally a debate is between people that know how to debate. People who keep their calm, try to address arguments made rationally. Perhaps even change their opinion based on new facts or arguments. However, most people are not equipped to debate in that way. They don’t keep their cool, may get really emotional because they feel threatened, may use arguments that are based on gut feelings... The authors think that it’s useful to make space for these passions, even when it gets ugly.
  • lack of respect for people who feel threatened but do so on the basis of poor arguments that they can’t even formulate particularly well is really destructive.
  • excluding people from the debate because they lack the skills to enter the debate properly will lead to more polarization.

Antillia and Saint Brendan

Friday 28 April

Christopher Columbus (Christophorus Columbus) assumed that the westward distance from Europe to Japan was much smaller than even his contemporaries thought. And this mistake should have killed him and all the people under his command. As we know the American continent saved him.

Simeon Netchev made a great map showing the differences between what Columbus thought he knew (including the fictional islands of Antillia and Saint Brendan) and the what was actually the case.

The Bible doesn’t condemn abortion

Monday 27 March

I listened to Bart Ehrman talking. He surprised me in asserting that the Bible doesn’t condemn abortion. In fact, according to Ehrman, the bible fairly explicitly states that the fetus is not human, and that abortion in the case of adultery is just fine. I can only assume that Christians base their claims on some ad hoc interpretation of other passages that don’t deal with abortion or the status of the fetus directly (and this seems to have happened relatively recently, if I understand Ehrman correctly). So, American Christians voted for the unbeliever Trump as a means to an end, but that end is not even based on doctrinal literalism but a on fanciful interpretation, a fiction about a fiction. Religion is weird, but it has real world consequences.

Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev

Tuesday 14 March

The speed at which genetic evolution can occur is best illustrated by an extraordinary study by Dmitri Belyaev, a Soviet scientist who had been demoted in 1948 for his belief in Mendelian genetics. (Soviet morality required the belief that traits acquired during one’s lifetime could be passed on to one’s children.)

Belyaev moved to a Siberian research institute, where he decided to test his ideas by conducting a simple breeding experiment with foxes. Rather than selecting foxes based on the quality of their pelts, as fox breeders would normally do, he selected them for tameness.

Whichever fox pups were least fearful of humans were bred to create the next generation. Within just a few generations the foxes became tamer. But more important, after nine generations, novel traits began to appear in a few of the pups, and they were largely the same ones that distinguish dogs from wolves. For example, patches of white fur appeared on the head and chest; jaws and teeth shrank; and tails formerly straight began to curl. After just thirty generations the foxes had become so tame that they could be kept as pets. Lyudmila Trut, a geneticist who had worked with Belyaev on the project and who ran it after his death, described the foxes as “docile, eager to please, and unmistakably domesticated.”—Haidt, referencing Trut.

Trut, L. N. 1999. “Early Canid Domestication: The Farm Fox Experiment.” American Scientist 87:160–69.

A Russian scientist who made progress despite the repressive nature of the country he had to live in.

Cultural and instinctive knowledge

Tuesday 14 March

“The main tool was a teardrop-shaped hand axe, and its symmetry and careful crafting jump out at us as something new under the sun, something made by minds like ours (see figure 9.2). This seems like a promising place to start talking about cumulative culture. But here’s the weird thing: Acheulean tools are nearly identical everywhere, from Africa to Europe to Asia, for more than a million years. There’s hardly any variation, which suggests that the knowledge of how to make these tools may not have been passed on culturally. Rather, the knowledge of how to make these tools may have become innate, just as the “knowledge” of how to build a dam is innate in beavers.”

Jonathan Haidt writes that, referencing:

“Richerson and Boyd 2005 makes this point. Cultural artifacts almost never show such stability across time and space. Think, for example, about swords and teapots, which fill museum cases because cultures are so inventive in the ways they create objects that fulfill the same basic functions.”

Richerson, P. J., and R. Boyd. 1998. “The Evolution of Human Ultra-Sociality.” In Indoctrinability, Ideology, and Warfare: Evolutionary Perspectives, ed. I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt and F. K. Salter, 71–95. New York: Berghahn.

The Shadow

Tuesday 14 March

In nature, physical shadows are created when light is blocked. Psychological shadows are created when awareness is blocked.

“The Shadow” is a metaphor used to describe any parts of ourselves we are ashamed to admit or afraid to encounter. Some people have a creativity shadow—they think they should always be practical. Others have an anger shadow—they think they should always be nice.

You might be so worried about people thinking you’re selfish that you neglect your own needs and desires. Or maybe you hide your talents because you feel afraid of judgment and criticism.—Britt Frank

(The shadow traces back to Carl Jung obviously, who I think I dislike for being hopelessly unscientific.)

Peter kiekt Anne bewerkt

Sunday 12 March

In transposing photos to somewhat clumsy black and white drawing like pictures I try to go beyond the particularity of the originals. Additionally, I just like black and white.

Hokkien Chinese

Thursday 9 March

I heard for the first time Hokkien Chinese, as spoken in Taiwan, in a pop #song. I don’t think I heard Hokkien Chinese earlier while being conscious of it. I was surprised how much more close the pronunciation of certain words is to Sino-Japanese. For example, in this phrase:


I seem to hear tei sekai ... shi — all very close to Japanese.

I asked OpenAI to transcribe it:

Tī sè-kài an-tsìng ê sî.

Listening again, yeah 佇 sounds more like /ti/ than /te:/ and 安静 because (I think) early Japanese had no closing /ng/ sound is different. And 的 is different, but that is no surprise at all.

However, sekai and shi are completely different form Mandarin and yet very close to Japanese.

Also a touching song, especially for me with my dad being almost eighty-eight.

[video on Youtube]

Warning: the video shows a somewhat animal unfriendly pig farm (I wonder what Taiwanese think about that, and how consciously it was included in the video).

When I tried to use OpenAI to transcribe more it was unable to do that reliably. I gave a few thumbs down and gave up.

I’ve located two online Hokkien Chinese | Taiwanese dictionaries:

With these I could check that OpenAI failed at transcribing reliably.

Omniglot has page about transcriptions and such:

Looking better at more words made me realize that Taiwanese words sounding like Japanese are much less common than I - for a moment - dared to hope. I’m not surprised. I still like how Taiwanese sounds quite different from Mandarin, but that’s very subjective and even arbitrary of course.

Would you guess /hiaⁿ-tī / is kyoudai/ (兄弟)? I wouldn’t. ;-)

Religion is not always a crutch

Wednesday 15 February

Anecdotal impression: religion should be a crutch, a support system. And yet, it seems to me that especially religious people suffer when confronted with loss and adversity.

I’ve seen christian guilt like: “Why am I being punished—I must be a horrible person.” Or: “I must have done something horrible to deserve such punishment.” Or more generally “why” questions. “Why does God allow X?” Etc.

It seems to me like seeing that lions eat zebras alive, seeing how horrible that is, but refusing to accept the fundamental amorality of most of the animal kingdom (and by extension the universe). Not acknowledging that evolution through natural selection is blind and without purpose. Not acknowledging that morality is limited to the human domain (often with in-group-out-group exceptions) and perhaps a few other social animals.

Wishful thinking and the disappointment when those wishes don’t come through.

Some religious people keep repeating the mantra: God has a plan, God has a plan. Or cling to the idea of being reunited in heaven. But in less traditional societies and minds that doesn’t work. Doubt sets in. And adds torment instead of support. Does religion as a rule only work as long as the setbacks are relatively small?

I wonder.

Just write it down when it pops into your head


Friday 27 January

I came across a warning sign (see the picture) which had the (for me) new word 学童. The meaning is completely clear from the context, but I was not 100% certain about its pronunciation. Nevertheless I guessed its pronunciation correctly. Looking up its meaning confirmed what the context had already made clear: 小学校に通って学ぶ児童. Funnily this definition also has also a word with 童, 児童. Go deeper! Well, 児童 is defined as: 年少の人間。子供 ... and a bunch more specific definitions for 児童.

I asked OpenAI: What is the etymology of the word 年少?

The word 年少 (niánshào) is composed of two characters: 年 (nián) meaning “year” and 少 (shào) meaning “few”. Together, they form the phrase “few years”, which is used to refer to someone’s youth or young age.

Yeah, sure. So 少 is used as a predicate?

Japanese would be straightforward: 年数が少ない.

I can’t get DeepL or TG to give me something like 年数が少ない in Chinese. I did get 他没有多少年 (tā méiyǒu duōshào nián) which has 多少 before 年 or 一些年 (yīxiē nián), also the wrong order. Maybe in Classical Chinese?

益之相禹也,歷年少,施澤於民未久。That Yi assisted Yu only for a few years, and had not long conferred benefits on the people.

Coming back to 童, how did I know its reading was ドウ? I thought of the word 鐘 “bell” en deduced from that トウ, but when I checked that later, its Sino-Japanese reading turned out to be ショウ, not ドウ, so I was right because I was wrong! What’s going on?

Something like the following must have happened. 童 is mostly a reliable phonetic, and it’s even the same phonetic as 重 as in 動. I must have seen it in other composite graphs or compound words. While 鐘 (most frequently read with its Japanese reading かね) came to my mind firstly, my brain (had) wrongly (sloppily) attributed that graph with the more common Sino-Japanese ドウ that 童 has. Probably I had encountered a word like 児童 earlier, but while my brain did remembered the on-yomi, it for some reason found it easier to recall 鐘. (What a mess.)

Elephant at sunset
A street in Japan with a sign warnign for children running the street to school.


Wednesday 11 January

I find Turkish interesting. I’ve almost finished a 300 page introduction course (half grammar half conversation texts). I’m switching to YouTube’s Easy Turkish series to train my brain more in the sound of the language and picking up more vocabulary and idiom.

I’ve purchased a second hand copy of a 3rd edition Redhouse New Turkish-English Dictionary to supplement Wiktionary. It looks pretty new—no actually gorgeous.

I also have an old grammar by G. L. Lewis.

The version of Redhouse that I’ve got seems very good. But Wiktionary is not bad either. Wiktionary often adds etymology, which often points to Arabic, which is rather distracting for someone who’s interested in that language as well.

There has been a huge language reform in Turkish to purge it from Arabic, Persian and more, but a lot still remains. Which is cool by me. I like how I can discover Chinese in Japanese and Arabic in Turkish.

So here’s a fragment from Easy Turkish: Söyle aslında boş vakitlerde ben genelde resim çizmeyi çok seviyorum. The second word (aslında, “actually”) already comes from Arabic, ʾaṣl, (ground, origin, foundation, basic rule, root—etc. in Wiktionary). Also fun to input the root in and see where the word is used in the Qur'an (Quran,Koran)

إِنَّهَا شَجَرَةٌ تَخْرُجُ فِىٓ أَصْلِ ٱلْجَحِيمِ

innahā shajaratun takhruju fī aṣli l‑jaḥīmi

That is a tree that rises in the root of Hellfire.

What tree is that? The tree of Zaqqūm.

Wikipedia: The fruits of Zaqqum are shaped like heads of devils (Qur'an 37:62-68). Some Islamic scholars believe in a literal meaning of this tree grown in fire, showing the inverted flora of hell. The inhabitants of hell are forced to eat the tree's fruits, which tears their bodies apart and releases bodily fluids as a punishment.

Yeah, that’s the Qur'an alright.

Development in taste

Saturday 7 January

Everybody has their own development in taste with regard to [food, clothing, interior design, art, music, etc]. Sometimes this matters hardly at all other times it leads to very different sensibilities and preferences. When I read this back it seems like a trivial hypothesis/observation (ignoring that not everything is relative sure there are universals as well—not going into that now).

In traditional societies there were less striking differences, in modern times capitalism advances paradoxically both mono-culture sometimes spanning many countries continents or even the entire globe and at the same time countless small niche subcultures that often exclude each other. I see both. Interiors that suddenly all have the same old look furniture for example. New musical styles that everybody seems to sing or hum to another example. Clothing fashion is of course beyond obvious everybody even adults wearing those insipid ripped jeans that hurt my eyes all the time is yet another example.

Sometimes I’m bored by the mono-culture, more often I’m amazed by the differences. For example, not one of my coworkers seem to share musical tastes among themselves. Except to some extend we can all agree which songs in the background music are bad, really bad, passable, enjoyable or even good—the reason for this of course that we all have been inescapably indoctrinated by back ground music, even if we don’t listen to it at home simply by being exposed to it for so many hours day in day out.

On rare occasions I even adopt a song I heard in BGM. Latest Burning, by The Whitest Boy Alive.

Kusumoto Ine and her mother; also, a Dutch sailing ship at Dejima, Japan

Friday 6 January

By 川原慶賀 Kawahara Keiga. I was intrigued by the seemingly red headed baby. I guessed it could be a depiction of 楠本イネ (Kusumoto Ine) with her mother 楠本瀧 (Kusumoto Taki). Her father was the German scholar Philipp Franz von Siebold. 楠本イネ later pursued a successful career in medicine.

According to Wikipedia it was her indeed, but the red hair may have been a exaggeration since her hair seems to have been brown (the depicted westerners have in fact also this hair color in the picture; maybe it’s supposed to be brown).

There are lots of interesting details in the picture, considering it dates back to the early 1800s.

I wanted to use it on my photo archive QR, but was unable to find a somewhat accurate date (Wikipedia had: date: 1811 - 1842, years of Keiga's employment for Dejima). Later I realized I could date it more accurately from the birth year of Kusumoto Ine (if she was about 2 years the date must have been ca. 1829).